Phillies: 2021’s New NL East’s Chase


By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

The Philadelphia Phillies are down to two rivals for the National League East crown, but you might not know it because the naysayers will immediately eliminate them if they haven’t already since the Pittsburgh Pirates series. Yes, it’s inevitable!  


The Aftermath:

Some Phillies faithful will have no difficulty finding a reason to doubt them regardless of their trading-deadline moves. And even if Dave Dombrowski, president of baseball operations, acquired the players they had preferred, there will always be one difference-maker still needed to avoid another postseason miss. 


“Whenever you make a big decision in life, at least any decision where you have a viable alternative, there is an inevitable uneasy aftermath.” - Emily Giffin

Many supporters increase their expectations near July’s end and rarely express satisfaction afterwards. Unfortunately, the franchise didn’t pick up the star they had wanted, and adding three pieces instead of four is always one deal short. The club, basically, can never do enough during the season, even when they win.    

For doubting Thomases, it is impossible to be wrong. Because if the team loses more than their prediction, it is even worse than they thought. But winning more works too because they hoped they were wrong, which cancels out their original forecast.            

The locals here don’t have a patent on this thinking. No, there’s no difference in any baseball city except for much-worse Gotham. Their supporters aren’t happy to just make the playoffs because the New York Yankees haven’t even appeared in one World Series in the last 10 summers.   

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Phillies: 2021’s Cost for Kimbrel


By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While the Philadelphia Phillies faithful waver between quietly hopeful and skeptically vocal, Dave Dombrowski, president of baseball operations, is in various stages of negotiating with selling franchises to shore up some roster holes. Ergo, due diligence!                   


Deadline Fixes:

For the Phillies front office, they can’t acquire a difference-making talent without offering value in return. And even though fans will balk at the cost, contending organizations will easily outbid unattractive proposals. But the bottom line is top-tier stars are more expensive.


“When you're building something, you know all of the trade-offs.” - Nolan Bushnell

For July, the Fightins are 12-8 (.600); and they must play .600 ball, be within range of the division lead, and be moving in the right direction. Basically, they will be at the 23-game mark on July 28, and a 14-9 record (.609) is within reach with two victories out of the next three contests.               

The Phils have been facing clubs in the same position they are: having to win for the higher-ups to be buyers prior to the July 30 deadline on Friday. But since they have evened the season series at 2-2 with the red pinstripes, the New York Yankees lost three of four to the Boston Red Sox.    

The Fightins are now 9-7 against the Atlanta Braves --7-3 at the Bank. Yes, both teams must win to add pieces for the stretch drive, but Atlanta has a five-game away set versus the New York Mets, while the Phillies have four home contests with the Washington Nationals.               

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Phillies: 2021’s Healthy Expectations


By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

For the Philadelphia Phillies, the winning key in the National League East is having their stars on the diamond considerably more than the IL (injured list). IL days, not months! Yes, avoiding the IL entirely isn’t realistic, but some recent seasons were excessive.     


Full Strength: 

The Phillies faithful aren’t the ones risking serious injury crashing into a wall to rob an opponent of a home run, ripping their grass-stained uniform by sliding into home plate for a walk-off victory, or spending countless hours preparing or rehabbing. No, they’re the ones in some instances disappointed by lack of perfection.  


“It is not the critic who counts. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.” - Theodore Roosevelt

Although the Fightins’ health hasn’t crippled them standings-wise, winnable games came up short due to missing pieces in the pen and the lineup. Only Sam Coonrod on July 24 will have recently missed a month. Basically, most players were healthy before the All-Star break. 

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Phillies, NL East: 2021’s New National Predictions


By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

As the second half begins, some Philadelphia Phillies fans are skeptical of their team’s chances in the National League East. Rightly or wrongly, they believe the worst is coming, but five national publications say otherwise. Yet after many locals had expected a .500 club, some now feel differently.


Stretch Drive Ahead:

Phillies faithful are either optimists or pessimists. However, only pessimistic supporters claim they are realists, while they point out the organization’s every shortcoming, real or perceived. And although they make suggestions, all fans do.   


“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” - William Arthur Ward

Some --who refer to themselves as realists-- think the Fightins are only a 75-win franchise. Ergo, they will have a 75-87 record: 12 games under .500 despite being at .500 with a 44-44 mark. They, then, would finish the campaign at 31-43. Not a .500 team?            

Even though forecasts have questionable accuracy, the national prediction sites list the red pinstripes with 81 to 83.1 victories. So, disbelieving this soothsaying is basically stating the eye test for the fielded product is more reliable than the number crunchers’ evaluations. 

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Phillies: Addressing 2021’s Plans

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

On June 30, the Philadelphia Phillies finished their first three months, and --now-- Dave Dombrowski, president of baseball operations, must evaluate the results. Seriously, no MLB front office can plug every hole. They can only concentrate on their most glaring flaws. 


Transactions to Date:

While the Phillies faithful entered April with eternal hope, the newly installed exec was probably more realistic with a fifty-fifty expectation for the newly acquired pieces. So, did Dombrowski do better than or worse than .500 with his offseason deals? And how ‘bout the fans?  


“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.” - Douglas Everett

Some locals had given up on the Fightins before June’s end, but they don’t realize ‘21 isn’t a normal 162. Translation: Many factors can change the outcome from one week to the next. So, hopelessness on Monday can become its opposite by the weekend.    

To illustrate, the Washington Nationals had produced a 14-3 run, but Trea Turner jammed a finger on his cycle-completing triple on July 1 of the Los Angeles Dodgers series during game one. The next day, homer-happy Kyle Schwarber suffered a severe hamstring injury in the second defeat: two days, two injuries.                

Although top teams are on the schedule, the Phils could play them at the wrong time due to their injuries or a buzz-saw opponent. For instance, the red pinstripes have four contests against the Boston Red Sox (53-32) at Fenway Park before the All-Star break.               

Other variables are stars with career years, good or bad. Agewise, a veteran can reach the end of his major league run because Father Time has caught up to him. And a general manager rolls the dice sometimes on mostly older free agents because franchises lock-up their young talent.

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Phillies: Plugging 2021's Holes in Progress


By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While the Philadelphia Phillies execs quietly resolve on-field shortcomings, their fans panic at problems, real and perceived; but ineffectiveness due to streaks, injuries, and growing pains affect the numbers. Temporarily! So, a hot April hitter can cool off in May, and a dominate starter can hit a rough patch.  


May, June and July:

Some Phillies faithful expect the club to fail due to weaknesses, but all franchises have warts. Moreover, an injury-plagued season after an abbreviated campaign means at least 20 organizations have a decent playoff shot, and the Fightins are in that group, doubting Thomases. 


“It is better to believe than to disbelieve; in doing you bring everything to the realm of possibility.” - Albert Einstein

At April’s end, center field and the eight hole were causing some locals and media types to panic. It was as if the Phils had to acquire a high-caliber glove, arm and bat to save the 162. No, it wasn’t the only issue; it was the highest nail to hammer.    

In the end, Odubel Herrera received the call-up on April 26 even though he hadn't faced major league pitching for two years due to a suspension and the pandemic. Beginning on May 5, though, he hit .314 to month’s end after only 24 at-bats. Overall, he’s dropped from .264 to .247 because he’s streaky: no surprise there.      

Herrera, a .280 hitter, has a .311 average with a .364 OBP leading off: a get-on-base role. Yes, he’s doing that even though his average has dropped. But he’s on base at a 36.4 percent clip to begin a frame.  

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Phillies on 2021 Buyer’s Path


By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

Playing .600 ball is the formula the Philadelphia Phillies execs would prefer to exceed the CBT (competitive-balance threshold) by up to $20 million and/or plug their glaring holes by late July. But the players can handle their postseason aspirations with their bats and gloves. Three weeks down, six to go!


A Healthy Opportunity:

While the Phillies faithful annually want to go for even long shots, no organization has infinite resources or desires wasteful spending, as New York Yankees supporters are finding out in ‘21. However, health and changed rules midstream will be X factors along with pressure on the stars as the trading deadline approaches. 


“The ultimate inspiration is the deadline.” - Nolan Bushnell

Barring long-term injuries, the Fightins’ offense depends on the regulars producing up to their track record. Granted, Alec Bohm is probably not a .338 hitter in 2021, but he’s also not a .233 bat either. Plus Odubel Herrera is a .280 hitter who can flip-flop in the lineup with Andrew McCutchen, when the need arises.                    

In the playoffs, clubs only require four hurlers, and Vince Velasquez would match up against other four-slot arms. But Velasquez is neither the developing pitcher from recent seasons nor the one during a May streak. No, hitters now expect other offerings besides his fastball in crucial spots, but his results will be acceptable.                           

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Phillies: NL East’s X Factor in 2021


By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While the Philadelphia Phillies faithful believe a full season represents normality, an underlying element will determine the divisional victor more than they expect. Like 2020, 2021 is already a unique campaign with its own complexion --unlike average annual differences. It stands alone!


Summer’s Discontent:

Expectation-wise, baseball men were at a loss to completely plan for ‘21 because they’ve never had a 60-game schedule preceding a full 162. For, however, the strike-abbreviated seasons of 1994 and 1995, 113 contests were the lowest mark. So, the doubling or tripling of injuries doesn’t have a precedent as a guide. 


“Write your injuries in dust, your benefits in marble.” - Benjamin Franklin

A normal year has injuries based on being hit by a pitch, crashing into a wall, collisions, and sprains due to forcing one’s body to make a catch or avoid a tag. In ‘20, missing a month was the equivalent of half a campaign. And misfortune affected the Phillies bullpen with no David Robertson and Seranthony Dominguez.                   

Currently, the pandemic has changed the last two offseasons because some players returning to an adjusted winter routine probably didn’t compensate to avoid overdoing their workload. And the result could be an unprecedented number of injuries. 

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Phillies: 2021’s Make-or-Break Month


By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While some Philadelphia Phillies faithful expect them to be out of contention by June 30, others have already reached this conclusion before June 1. Regardless, baseball men realize June will determine the organization’s direction if they are still competitive in early July. Translation: limited holes and good health.


No Silver Bullet:

Phillies fans bemoan each loss and scapegoat some players and hurlers, while other supporters believe they are suffering the most. Wrong! Basically, stars and broadcasters experience defeat in real time, while beat scribes and writers who cover every game relive each loss while writing about it: me in 2009.


“Losing feels worse than winning feels good.” - Vin Scully

In the rotation, the signings of Matt Moore and Chase Anderson soothed the locals who had wanted Vince Velasquez pruned from the roster. Clue: Some even now merely tolerate Zach Eflin as a five-slot arm, until he has a bad inning. Then, the doubting Thomases have all the logic-eliminating proof required.    

With only Hector Neris, Connor Brogdon and David Hale returning on Opening Day, the faithful were happy with five new relievers. They had pictured Archie Bradley as a solid closer and wondered why Neris was still on the team. Unfortunately, some expected a lights-out pen to protect almost every lead.      

After a winter of low expectations, JT Realmuto and Didi Gregorius re-upped with the Fightins because other franchises didn’t want to wait and/or pay their asking prices. Realistically, the 2020 offense was going to take the field again and provide the needed run support for Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler.

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2021 Phillies: Acquiring a New Closer


By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While the Philadelphia Phillies are only nine weeks into the 162, the faithful mostly voice their displeasure with struggling players on the mound, in the field, and on the bench. Every campaign, stars receive their ire based on performances, real or perceived; and some judgements begin after only two weeks.  


Greener Pastures:

One Phillies fan believes the organization has tons of closers (his words) in the minors because that’s what scouting is for. Meanwhile, others think replacing Hector Neris could have been done long-ago or during the offseason. But if the front office can’t accomplish this immediately, are they incompetent?


“Have you ever considered that your perception of reality could be wrong? If you haven't, this is a pretty good sign that it is.” - Ernie J Zelinski

In November, management targets their shortcomings, but the emphasis is on their greatest needs. Not all! And they reassess their team’s weaknesses after a competitive three months because players tend to be streaky. Ergo, those 26 men have the opportunity to succeed, but there are surprises, disappointments and injuries.           

During the winter, the Fightins sought a catcher, a shortstop, a left-handed bat with 20-homer power, two starting pitchers and a totally revamped bullpen. However, today’s execs don’t have unlimited spending. Even the New York Yankees no longer pay penalties totaling over $500 million for one World Series title.                           

By June’s end, the Phils’ roster picture may change significantly, and the higher-ups are willing to exceed the $210 million CBT (competitive-balance threshold) by $15-20 million AAV (average annual value) for one --one-- year if the club has a realistic postseason chance. And the players know they control this by winning. 

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